The American Presidency Project
John T. Woolley & Gerhard Peters • Santa Barbara, California return to original document
• Hubert H. Humphrey
"A New Day for America": Address Accepting the Presidential Nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago
August 29, 1968

My fellow Americans, my fellow Democrats:

I proudly accept the nomination of our party.

This moment is one of personal pride and gratification. Yet one cannot help but reflect the deep sadness that we feel over the troubles and the violence which have erupted regrettably and tragically in the streets of this great city, and for the personal injuries which have occurred. Surely we have learned the lesson that violence breeds more violence and that it cannot be condoned --whatever the source.

I know that every delegate to this Convention shares tonight my sorrow and my distress for these incidents. And may we, for just one moment, in sober reflection, in serious purpose, may we just quietly and silently — each in our own way — pray for our country. And may we just share for a moment a few of those immortal words of the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi — words which I think may help heal the wounds and lift our hearts. Listen to this immortal saint: "Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light."

Those are the words of a saint. And may those of us of less purity listen to them well. And may America tonight resolve that never, never again shall we see what we have seen.

Yes, I accept your nomination in this spirit that I have spoken, knowing that the months and the years ahead will severely test our America. And as this America is tested once again, we give our testament to America. And I do not think it is sentimental nor is it cheap — that each and everyone of us in our own way should once again reaffirm to ourselves and our posterity — that we love this nation — we love America.

This is not the first time that our nation has faced a challenge to its life and its purpose.

Each time that we have faced these challenges, we have emerged with new greatness and with new strength.

We must make this moment of crisis a moment of creation. As it has been said: "In the worst of times, a great people must do the best of things."

And let us do it.

We stand at such a moment now — in the affair of this nation. Because, my fellow Americans, something new, something different has happened. It is the end of an era and is the beginning of a new day.

It is the special genius of the Democratic Party that it welcomes change, not as an enemy but as an ally ...not as a force to be suppressed, but as an instrument of progress to be encouraged.

This week our Party has debated the great issues before America in this very hall.

Had we not raised these issues, troublesome as they were, we would have ignored the reality of change.

Had we papered over differences with empty platitudes instead of frank, hard debate, we would deserve the contempt of our fellow citizens and the condemnation of history.

We have heard hard and sometimes bitter debate.

But I submit that this is the debate and this is the work of free people, the work of an open convention, and the work of political party responsive to the needs of this nation.

Democracy affords debate, discussion and dissent.

But it also requires decision.

And we have decided, here, not by edict but by vote — not by force but by ballot.

Majority rule has prevailed, while minority rights are preserved.

There is always the temptation to leave the scene of battle in anger and despair, but those who know the true meaning of democracy accept the decision of today, but never relinquish their right to change it tomorrow.

In the space of one week, this Convention has laid the foundations for a new Democratic Party structure in America. From precinct level to the floor of this Convention, we have revolutionized our rules and procedures.

And that revolution is in the proud tradition of our Party.

In the tradition of Franklin Roosevelt, who knew that America had nothing to fear but fear itself...and it is in the tradition of Harry Truman who let'em have it and told it like it was. And that's the way we're going to do it from here on out.

It is in the tradition of that beloved man, Adlai Stevenson, who talked sense to the American people. And, oh, tonight, how we miss that great, good and gentle man of peace in America.

And my fellow Americans, all that we do and all that we ever hope to do, must be in the tradition of John F. Kennedy who said to us: "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what can you do for your country."

And my fellow Democrats and my fellow Americans, in the spirit of that great man, ask what together we can do for the freedom of man.

And what we are doing is in the tradition of Lyndon B. Johnson who rallied a grief-stricken nation when our leader was stricken by the assassin's bullet and said to you and said to me and said to all the world: "Let us continue."

And in the space of five years since that tragic moment, President Johnson has accomplished more of the unfinished business of America than any of his modern predecessors.

I do believe that history will surely record the greatness of his contribution to the people of this land.

And tonight, to you, Mr. President, I say: Thank you, thank you, Mr. President.

At this convention, too, we have recognized the end of an era and the beginning of a new day.

And that new day belongs to the people — to all of the people everywhere in this land of the people — to every man, woman, and child that is a citizen of the Republic.

Within that new day lies nothing less than the promise seen a generation ago by Thomas Wolfe: "To every man his chance, to every man regardless of his birth, his shining golden opportunity. To every man the right to live and to work and to be himself. And to become whatever thing his manhood and his vision can combine to make him. This is the promise of America."

Yes, a new day is here. Across America — throughout the entire world — the forces of emancipation are at work. We hear freedom's rising chorus: "Let me live my own life. Let me live in peace. Let me be free," say the people.

And that cry is heard today in our slums and on our farms and in our cities.

It is heard from the old, as well as from the young.

It is heard in Eastern Europe and it is heard in Vietnam.

And it will be answered by us in how we face the three realities that confront this nation.

The first reality is the necessity for peace in Vietnam and in the world.

The second reality is the necessity for peace in our cities and in our nation.

The third reality is the paramount necessity for unity in our country.

Let me speak first about Vietnam.

There are differences, of course, serious differences, within our Party on this vexing, painful issue of Vietnam. And these differences are found even within the ranks of all the Democratic Presidential candidates.

Once you have examined the differences, I hope you will recognize the much larger area of agreement.

Let those who believe that our cause in Vietnam has been right — and those who believe it has been wrong — agree here and now: Neither vindication nor repudiation will bring peace or be worthy of our country.

The question is: What do we do now?

No one knows what the situation in Vietnam will be on January 20, 1969.

Every heart in America prays that, by then, we shall have reached a cease-fire in all Vietnam, and be in serious negotiation toward a durable peace.

Meanwhile, as a citizen, a candidate, and Vice President, I pledge to you and to my fellow Americans, that I shall do everything within my power to aid the negotiations and to bring a prompt end to this war.

May I remind you of the words of a truly great citizen of the world, Winston Churchill — it was he who said — and we would heed his words well: "Those who use today and the present to stand in judgment of the past, may well lose the future."

And if there is one lesson we should have learned, it is that the policies of tomorrow need not be limited by the policies of yesterday.

And my fellow Americans, if it becomes my high honor to serve as President of these States and people, I shall apply that lesson to the search for peace in Vietnam, as to all areas of national policy.

Now, let me ask you, do you remember these words, at another time, in a different place: "Peace and freedom do not come cheap. And we are destined — All of us here today — to live out most, if not all of our lives, in uncertainty and challenge and peril."

The words of a prophet? Yes.

The words of a President? Yes.

The words of the challenge of today? Yes.

And the words of John Kennedy to you and to me and to me and to posterity.

Last week we witnessed once again in Czechoslovakia the desperate attempt of tyranny to crush out the forces of liberalism by force and brutal power — to hold back change. But in Eastern Europe, as elsewhere, the old era will surely end and, there, as here, a new day will dawn.

And to speed this day, we must go far beyond where we've been, beyond containment to communication, beyond differences to dialogue, beyond fear to hope.

We must cross the remaining barriers of suspicion and despair.

We must halt the arms race before it halts humanity. And is this, is this a vain hope? Is it but a dream? I say the record says no.

Within the last few years we have made progress.

We have negotiated a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

We have laid the groundwork for a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

We have reached agreement on banning weapons in outer space.

We have been building patiently stone by stone, each in our own way, the cathedral of peace. And now we must take new initiatives.

Every American, black or white, rich or poor, has the right in this land of ours to a safe and a decent neighborhood. And on this there can be no compromise.

I put it very bluntly. Rioting, sniping, mugging, traffic in narcotics and disregard for law are the advance guard of anarchy and they must and they will be stopped.

But may I say most respectfully, particularly to some who have spoken before, the answer lies in reasoned, effective action by state, local and federal authority. The answer does not lie in an attack on our courts, our laws or our Attorney General.

We do not want a police state, but we need a state of law and order. And neither mob violence nor police brutality have any place in America.

And I pledge to use every resource that is available to the President to end for once and for all the fear that is in our cities.

Now let me speak of other rights. Nor can there be any compromise with the right of every American who is able and who is willing to work to have a job, who is willing to be a good neighbor, to be able to live in a decent home in the neighborhood of his own choice.

Nor can there by any compromise with the right of every American who is anxious and willing to learn to have a good education.

And it is to these rights — the right of law and order, the right of life, the right of liberty, the right of a job, the right of a home in a decent neighborhood, and the right to an education — it is to these rights that I pledge my life and whatever capacity and ability I have.

But we cannot be satisfied with merely repairing that which is old. We must also move beyond the enclosures of our traditional cities to create new cities, to restore our present cities, yes, and we must bring prosperity and modern living and opportunity to our rural areas.

We must design and open America, opening new opportunities for new Americans in open land. I say to this audience, we have invested billions to explore outer space where man may live tomorrow. We must also be willing to invest to develop inner space right here on earth where many may live today.

And now that third reality. Essential if the other two are to be achieved, is the necessity, my fellow American., for unit in our country, for tolerance and forbearance, for holding together as a family. And we must make a great decision: are we to be one nation, or are we to be a nation divided between black and white, between rich and poor, between north and south, between young and old.

I take my stand. We are and we must be one nation — united by liberty and justice for all, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. This is our America.

And just as I've said to you that there can be no compromise on the right of personal security, there can be no compromise on securing of human rights.

If America is to make a crucial judgment of leadership, in this coming election, then let that selection be made without either candidate hedging or equivocating. Winning the presidency for me is not worth the price of silence or evasion on the issue of human rights.

And winning the presidency, and listen well, winning the presidency is not worth a compact with extremism.

I choose not simply to run for President. I seek to lead a great nation. And either we achieve true justice in our land or we shall doom ourselves to a terrible exhaustion of body and spirit.

I base my entire candidacy on the belief which comes from the very depth of my soul, which comes from basic religious conviction that the American people will stand up, that they will stand up for justice and fair play, and that they will respond to the call of one citizenship, one citizenship open to all for all Americans.

So this is the message that I shall take to the people and I ask you to stand with me. And to all of my fellow Democrats now who have labored hard and openly this week at the difficult and sometimes frustrating work of democracy, I pledge myself to the task of leading the Democratic Party to victory in November.

And may I say to those who have differed with their neighbor or those who have differed with a fellow Democrat, that all of your goals, that all of your high hopes, that all of your dreams, all of them will come to naught if we lose this election. And many of them can be realized with a victory that can come to us.

And now a word to two good friends, and they are my friends, and they're your friends, and they're fellow Democrats. To my friend, Gene McCarthy and George McGovern, who have given new hope to a new generation of Americans that there can be greater meaning in their lives, that America can respond to men of moral concern, to these two good Americans I ask your help for our America. And I ask you to help me in the difficult campaign that lies ahead.

And now I appeal to those thousands, yes, millions of young Americans to join us not simply as campaigners but to continue as vocal, creative and even critical participants in the politics of our times. Never were you needed so much and never could you do so much if you were to help now.

Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream. Robert F. Kennedy as you saw tonight had a great vision.

If America will respond to that dream and that vision, their deaths will not mark the moment when America lost its way, but it will mark the time when America found its conscience.

These men have given us inspiration and direction. And I pledge from this platform tonight we shall not abandon their purposes. We shall honor their dreams by our deeds, now and in the days to come.

I am keenly aware of the fears and frustrations of the world in which we live.

It is all too easy to play on these emotions. But I do not intend to do so.

I do not intend to appeal to fear, but rather to hope.

I do not intend to appeal to frustration, but rather to your faith.

I shall appeal to reason and to your good judgment.

Citation: Hubert H. Humphrey: ""A New Day for America": Address Accepting the Presidential Nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago", August 29, 1968. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=25964.
 
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